April 23, 2009

Battle of the Baggy Pants, Part 2

After a judge found a Florida town's ban on underwear-revealing saggy pants unconstitutional as applied, opponents of the law vowed to overturn the ordinance entirely on 14th Amendment grounds.  Yesterday, a judge agreed -- and Riviera Beach's residents are now free to droop trou.  (OK, go ahead and groan.)

For a discussion of the earlier case -- and its cultural subtext -- click here.  


December 16, 2008

Glamour Don't

Think you're having a bad fashion day?  It could be worse -- at least you're probably not one of the poor souls identified on the pages of Glamour magazine as a cautionary "don't," your identity semi-protected only by the addition of a black anonymity bar across your eyes.  While Counterfeit Chic usually considers Glamour Dos and Don'ts to be a public service, every now and then a member of this august fashion police force turns out to be a rogue cop. 

Among Glamour's televised "20 Wedding Dos and Don'ts" is an important fashion "don't":  Don't go broke on your wedding dress.  No argument here.  Yes, the dress should be incredibly flattering and worth saving for your granddaughter someday.  No, you shouldn't let the wedding industrial complex convince you that your future marital happiness is directly proportional to the price of your gown.

Some of the budget alternatives suggested on camera include buying secondhand (after all, your pre-owned dream dress was probably only worn for a few hours -- if at all) and looking into your favorite designers' or boutiques' sample sales.   And by the way, there is also a wide range of long, white dresses available without the premium that seems to accompany specialty sales; my own dress was a satin evening gown that the designer happened to have created in white.  Nontraditional color/style choices may yield even better bargains. 

One not-so-Glamourous expert, however, actually advocated buying a knockoff: 

Legal, yes, at least in the U.S.  But it's no wonder that bridal boutiques ban cameras and wedding dress designers resort to copyrighting lace designs and touting the value of authenticity in an effort to gain some traction against design pirates.

Tradition may call for the bride to wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue  -- but it's probably better wedding karma if the "borrowed" item is loaned voluntarily. 

October 31, 2008

Sarah's Other Shopping Spree

Your scary Halloween costume checklist:

  • Beehive hairdo
  • Rimless glasses
  • Lipstick (wouldn't want to be mistaken for a ... oh, never mind)
  • Designer business suit (red, black, white or combination thereof)
  • Pumps (see first two color choices above)
  • Counterfeit accessory (optional)

Eric Wilson at the New York Times started the Sarah Palin knockoff watch with his observation last week that she had arrived at the Alaska governor's mansion the first time wearing "what appeared to be a knockoff Burberry scarf."  Now her youngest daughter has been photographed carrying (Mommy's?) Louis Vuitton bag, also alleged to be fake. 

Even if the luxury bag turns out to be genuine -- perhaps part of that $150K shopping spree -- it doesn't exactly scream all-American hockey mom. 

And if the scarf and bag are indeed counterfeit, Sarah may have to face a few questions about the source of the illegal merchandise and her take on fakes.  Not to mention their association with child labor, organized crime, and, yes, in some cases even funding for terrorism.  (Perhaps you've received some of the spam suggesting that Obama is a Muslim, associates with terrorists, or both.  Imagine what those guys would be writing if one of his daughters instead of one of Sarah's had been spotted with a counterfeit handbag.  Talk about scary.)

Now, back to that brain-eating zombie costume...

Thanks to my fabulous Fordham law student Andrew Wolinsky for the tip!

October 23, 2008

Sarah's Shopping Spree

When Politico revealed yesterday that the Republican National Committee had spent $150K at Saks and Neiman Marcus to dress Sarah Palin for the campaign trail, your favorite law prof's telephone lines lit up. 

Was it legal?  Yes.  Campaign finance laws prohibit the conversion to personal use of contributions accepted by a candidate, specifically including clothing (2 U.S.C. 439(a)) -- but this was RNC money, not funds from the McCain campaign.  Nice loophole.  Even if the bills had been paid with a candidate's contributions, the campaign could still have argued that this particular clothing was not "an expense that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign," so long as Sarah wore the clothes for campaigning only.  When a spokesperson stated that the intent all along had been to donate the clothes to a charity after the campaign, the idea may have been to establish this argument.  And contrary to some suggestions, if the RNC retains ownership of the clothes and merely lets Sarah use them during the campaign, she shouldn't have to pay income tax on the $150K. 

Was it politically savvy?  Are you kidding? Mrs. Joe Six-Pack doesn't drop $150K at a time at luxury retailers.  Especially not in the middle of an economic meltdown.  Of course, we're a visual culture, and political theatre requires makeup, props, lighting -- and yes, costumes.  For Sarah to be on the road and photographed every day for a couple of months, the wardrobe augmentation was strategic and perhaps necessary.  But for a political candidate billing herself as a hockey mom and trying to overcome a reputation as attractive but uninformed, going the luxury route was a PR disaster.

For more on my conversations yesterday, check out the following:

  • Olivia Barker at U.S.A. Today
  • Frank James at the Chicago Tribune online (my favorite comment -- and, yes, fashion law now exists!)
  • Robin Abcarian and Kate Linthicum at the L.A. Times
  • Jennifer Garske at AP Radio
The moral of the story?  If you're seeking office, make sure you look good -- but not too good.  And save your exclusive B-list shopping trip (Barney's, Berdorf's, Bendel's, Bloomie's) for the post-election celebration. 

October 16, 2008

Button Up!

With the most interesting election season in years drawing to a close, many have taken to wearing their votes on their sleeves -- or their lapels, hats, and T-shirts.  All of these actions are constitutionally protected free speech.  Except, it would seem, inside certain states' polling places. 

Virginia has just joined a number of other states in prohibiting voters from wearing to the polls any items of apparel that advocate for or against a particular candidate or issue.  Those who do so will presumably be asked to remove or cover the offending items before being permitted to vote.  

While the goal of avoiding intimidation or coercion of fellow voters is an important one, surely these laws go too far.  Political speech is at the core of the rights of expression that are so vital to a functioning democracy, and clothing is a key medium of personal expression (more on this point in a forthcoming article).  Poll workers, police, and others acting in an official capacity should maintain their neutrality, but the attire of private citizens at the polls is hardly a threat to public order -- indeed, it may be considered a quiet contribution to public debate. 

Counterfeit Chic thus urges all partisans to go and vote while wearing your team colors, whatever they may be.  And if your local election officials give you trouble?  Engage in a bit of creative civil disobedience and amortize your Halloween investment by wearing Sarah Palin wigs and glasses or Hillary-style orange pantsuits on Election Day. 


Thanks to Anonymous in Richmond for the tip!  

September 30, 2008

Getting in the Habit

Milan Fashion Week is over, but in Rome a controversy over hemlines is still smoldering.  It seems that the city of imperial decadence and "la dolce vita" is suddenly feeling a bit overexposed. 

According to a new decree from the mayor, it is forbidden, among other things, " wear clothing that unequivocally manifests the intention to solicit or engage in the activity of prostitution."  As at least one police official has noted, the law is unclear as to just how short a skirt might have to be in order to constitute a violation, leading to potential misunderstandings.  Just last August, for example, two foreign students visiting a church were stopped on suspicion of engaging in prostitution.  (Perhaps I should think about hiding my own photo album from studying in Rome years ago, for that matter -- though as I recall the rules about having our knees and shoulders covered when visiting churches were strictly enforced.)

Meanwhile, with 200-euro fines at stake, an advocate for sex workers has suggested that prostitutes walk the streets in black-and-white nuns' habits instead, leaving the police to arrest scantily clad girls in front of nightclubs or to fine women showing too much cleavage.  Of course, that might also make life a bit more interesting for all of the real nuns strolling around the eternal city.